Worship Connection: April 21, 2013

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

COLOR: White
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30

CALLS TO WORSHIP

Call to Worship #1

L: Come! Let us worship and praise God.
P: The Lord is our shepherd, our guardian and our guide.
L: Celebrate the many ways in which God cares for our lives.
P: Green pastures and silent still waters beckon us and comfort us.
L: Even though difficulties happen in our lives, still God is with us.
P: Even when it seems that the world has nothing to offer but suffering and pain, God surrounds us with God’s love and bounty.
L: Surely God’s mercy accompanies us on our journey.
P: And we will dwell in God’s house forever. AMEN.

Call to Worship #2

L: Awake! Rise up!
P: There is much to be done in the Lord’s Name today.
L: Get ready to worship and to serve God.
P: We are ready to hear God’s word for us and to respond in action and love.
L; Open your hearts to God’s will this day.
P: Praise be to God who walks with us and guides us. AMEN.

Call to Worship #3

[Using THE FAITH WE SING, P. 2058 “Shepherd Me, O God”, offer the following call to worship as directed]
Soloist: singing refrain of “Shepherd Me, O God” (p. 2058)
L: God is our shepherd. We can depend on God.
P: God brings us hope and peace.
Soloist: singing refrain of “Shepherd Me, O God” (p. 2058)
L: Through trials and tribulations, God continually provides abundantly for us.
P: Even when we doubt and turn away, God is constant in God’s faithful love.
Choir: singing refrain of “Shepherd Me, O God” (p. 2058)
L: God’s love continually flows through our lives.
P: In the midst of the multitude, we will praise God in song, worship, and service. AMEN.
All: singing refrain of “Shepherd Me, O God” (p. 2058)

Call to Worship #4

L: Praise to the Lamb who is seated on the Throne of Heaven!
P: Praise be to God who offers God’s love to us!
L: Let us sing continually of God’s wisdom, and power, and might.
P: Let our voices be raised in joyful celebration!
L: Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor, and glory, and majesty.
P: Let our hearts rejoice at God’s redeeming love for us. AMEN.


PRAYERS, LITANY/READING, BENEDICTION

Opening Prayer

With joy we come this day to the house of the Lord. God provides for us abundantly even when we doubt and fear, even when we turn away. God is faithful. Open our hearts today, O Lord, to hear your word for us that we may become faithful disciples of our Lord all our days. AMEN.

Prayer of Confession

Anger, hatred, anguish blare at us from the newspapers, media. The shouts of hurt and pain harden our hearts, merciful God. We cannot bear the hurts, so we turn away. We hide and want the hurt to disappear. When we hear the words of the Psalmist singing about the green pastures, still waters, our souls long for this place of peace. We think that it can be found outside ourselves, yet this is a reminder of the peace and hope that your love offers us from within. We know that we will have struggles and hard times, but help us, Lord, to place our lives in your care, to trust in your comfort and guidance. Forgive our stubborn resistance to your compassionate love. Heal us again and place us on the right path. For we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Words of Assurance

Do not fear! You can place your trust in God, for God will lead you, comfort you, protect you. You are not alone to face all the difficulties of life. God is with you and will lift you up. Rejoice, for you are loved by God.

Pastoral Prayer

Help us to move beyond the “sampler” prayer so often found printed on pillows, on wall hangings: "The Lord is my Shepherd." Help us to understand what those words truly mean, O Lord. We can count on you. You are the one who holds our lives, guides our steps, comforts and sustains us. You want for us the lush greenness of verdant pastures and the alluring draw of still waters; yet you know that our lives will not be smooth; there will be rough times. We can count on you, Lord. We can place our trust in you. Help us to feel the power of the Psalmist’s words: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Nothing can trouble, nothing can threaten. You are with us. As we reach out in love and service to others, remind us that the work we do in your name, with love and compassion, is an echo of your tender mercy and loving care. Strengthen us and give us enthusiasm to follow the Shepherd all the days of our lives. AMEN.

Litany/Reading

Reader 1: I don’t know much of anything about sheep. I’ve never even seen a shepherd, except in movies or on the travel channel. They are just dumb animals. So the Bible message about the shepherd doesn’t mean much of anything, except being a nice story, to me.

Reader 2: There was a young girl in my church who raised sheep. She was part of 4-H and one of the projects was to raise sheep. Daily she made sure that she counted her tiny flock; she fed them grain in the winter months when snow covered their meager pasture. She made sure that they had fresh water. Even on days when the winter winds howled and the snow swirled around, she would walk to the barns, and take care of her sheep. She had names for each one, fitting the personality of each sheep. She talked to them, hugged them, brushed them, and tended them. When the lambs were born, she would tearfully rejoice over each new birth, cuddling the tiny lamb and making sure that it received care from its mother. Even the lambs that were rejected by their mothers, received tender care from her as she made sure they were fed and nursed. And her sheep knew her voice. They could tell, from far off, when they heard her calling that it was her. One day I asked her about her sheep. She said that she loved them, and told me their names. I called one of them by name, but it didn’t come to me. I tried again, using a different tone of voice, to coax it to come, but to no avail. Then she whispered it’s name, and it came to her, trusting in her goodness. There will never be a time when she does not care about her sheep, she told me. Each one of them is precious. She said that it seems to her God cares for her just the same way. God knows her name and calls her. She places her trust in God’s love and even when things get tough, she relies on God.

Reader 1: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

Reader 2: He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters.

Reader 1: He restores my soul.

CONGREGATION: He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in God’s house forever. AMEN.

Benediction

Go forth in peace and hope this day, for God is your guardian and guide. Bring news of God’s love to all whom you meet.AMEN.


ARTISTIC ELEMENTS

Although the suggested color for this Sunday is WHITE or GOLD, I recommend using Blues and greens for the artistic elements. 

Author's Note:

The focus today is God’s abundant, lavish love for us. The image of the green pastures, the still waters can be powerful images of hope and peace.

Surface:
Place a 6” riser on the worship center to the upper left corner, facing diagonally toward the center. Place a riser in front of the worship center toward the center right.

Fabric:
Cover the whole worship center in green fabric. I recommend using a medium green, but not a bright “kelly” green, color. Using about 10-12 feet of silky blue fabric, create a stream which flows from behind the 6” riser, diagonally across the worship table and puddles on the floor in front of the worship center, creating a Pool effect.

Candles:
You may place a tall white pillar candle on the 6” riser, and several votive candles on the worship center and on the riser in front of the worship center.

Flowers/Foliage:
Because the images are lush and green, use very leafy, soft plants, such as ferns and ivy as a backdrop for the worship center, and on either side of the “pool”. You may use some floral potted plants, but I would not recommend flower arrangements for this setting.

Rocks/Wood:
Surrounding the “pool” place some rocks and stones, giving the sense of a contained pool of water. If you prefer, you may place them on either side of the blue fabric on the floor, creating an image of flowing stream.

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